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1998 was another year filled with struggle. Burning Man was not going to happen on the Hualapai Flat again. The nature of that site was basically not suitable without modifications and more extensive use of Hualapai playa itself, which is BLM land. After several trips across northern Nevada to examine potential locations, Alkali Flat in Esmeralda County was chosen as the next location for Burning Man. Unfortunately, Goldfield, the nearest town, didn't see the possibilities. The citizens of Goldfield glared at Larry Harvey and Will Roger throughout their presentation, and the Esmeralda County Commissioners had no choice but to refuse our request for consideration.

Larry and Will returned to their ratty hotel room. After staring at a garden-variety hotel landscape painting on the wall, they decided the Man would return to the Black Rock Desert. It was, after all, THE home for Burning Man.

Submitting the permit was one thing; compelling the BLM to simply PROCESS the permit was a struggle of wills all of its own. Just 28 days after submitting our permit forms to the BLM, they were returned to us unprocessed. The explanation was that the BLM was too busy crafting and drafting the long-term recreational use plan for the desert, and didn't have enough resources to go through our permit process. After eight weeks of letters from our community, the District Manager of the Winnemucca office put our permit into the process. The BLM realized that many people would come to the Black Rock Desert over Labor Day whether or not Burning Man was held, and organization was preferable to chaos. The experience made for an interesting exercise in creating relationships and government process. We went through the public-meeting process and drafted our own EA (staff and volunteers together), of which we were quite proud. After an intense ten-week permit process, we received our permit in mid-June.

The art theme was The Nebulous Entity. It wasn't necessarily about space, or the sky, but it was otherworldly. You can look at the Summer newsletter to read about not only the theme, but a longer article about the political struggles we endured at that time.

You'll also find Theme Camps and Villages, Radio Stations and the Black Rock City Map from 1998.

about this photo
The event experienced more moisture than many had seen at that time of year before. There was a drizzle of rain on several days, and Pepe's Opera was delayed for several hours until 3 am because of an afternoon downpour that left it difficult to move the sound system into place. On Monday afternoon, a light drizzled slowed the departure process as people left the event site. The rain didn't stop until Tuesday morning, and upon light of day those left in camp were surrounded by water. Very little of the surface was dry enough to walk on, and shoes/boots covered with garbage bags became the de riguer fashion. This weather anomaly delayed the cleanup process more than just the three days it took to dry the surface. We lost a huge number of people by the week's end, and all items on the surface became embedded as the mud dried. Clean up took almost 2 months. You can read Will Roger's report on the difficulties.

The tracks that were made in the mud during the cleanup process have taken time to disappear. Odds and ends that were under the muddy surface have resurfaced for the past two years. The Earth Guardians and other interested volunteers continue to monitor this site.

At the close of 1998, it became painfully obvious that the organization should not continue to create and dissolve LLC's (Limited Liability Corporation); it wasn't a habit looked upon with favor by the financial community. After extensive research about non-profits and an insistence upon complete control over the board of the organization, the six LLC members chose to create a lasting LLC now know as Black Rock City LLC. It was also decided to research creating a sister non-profit arts organization separate from the event-creating organization. In mid-2000 this development has advanced and a non-profit arts organization will shortly come to fruition.

Additionally, the hunt for Burning Man's office space began in the fall of 1998. In early 1999, we settled into our current location in San Francisco's industrial Bayview district.